Third annual Closet Door on the Quad, sharing stories and support

Third+annual+Closet+Door+on+the+Quad%2C+sharing+stories+and+support

Photographs courtesy of Kati Maseman

By Kati Maseman

During the 3rd annual Closet Door on the Quad, students, staff, and members of the UIS community took the opportunity to come out of the closet in both a literal and figurative way as a part of National Coming Out Day.

Not everyone who came out of the closet door set up on the Quad at UIS was coming out as a member of the LGBTQ community; several came out simply to show their support for friends and as allies to the LGBT students at UIS.

According to Kerry Poynter, Director of the LGBTQ Resource Office, this is the third year of doing Coming Out Day as a large campus and community wide event. Before, it was not a scheduled event. There was a closet door placed on the quad and people would just walk through randomly throughout the day. The goal was to “make it more of an event,” said Poynter of the new set up.

This year, the LGBTQ Resource Office gave out around 500 “Screw Tolerance and Build Acceptance” t-shirts, which most attendees to the event wore to demonstrate their support.

According to the LGBT website, on their Queertober page, the t-shirt is meant to say “Tolerance only serves to maintain the status quo. A status quo of indifference, ignorance, misinformation, and ultimately homophobia, transphobia, racism, sexism, ableism, etc. Wear the “Screw Tolerance” Tshirt and take steps in your daily life to remove the barriers keeping you from truly accepting.”

Mandy Carter. Photo by Kati Maseman

The new additions to the Closet Door on the Quad this year were guest speaker Mandy Carter and singer Summer Osborne. Carter, an activist for LGBT rights, social justice and racial equality, spoke about her work with the National Black Justice Coalition. Osborne has released five albums and an EP, she is St. Louis based.

Summer Osborne. Photo by Alex Johnson

During the Closet Door on the Quad, several students and member of the UIS community shared their stories of coming out. One of those stories came from graduate student Brady Sullivan. “Coming out is one of the scariest and most liberating experiences I have ever had. I do not regret it,” he said.

A piece of advice he later shared was, “If you are questioning, concerned, unsure, etc. remember that there are people out there who care. Don’t fade into darkness over the fear of what might happen if you come out of the closet, but instead step into that part of yourself that you have kept hidden away for so long. I have been through a lot of pain since I came out, but it has shaped me into the person I am today and I would not trade the experience for the world.” He concluded with, “Plus, do you really wanna miss out on all the cute boys?”

Poynter stated that listening to others stories can be a powerful experience for LGBTQ students. “It allows for all these different students to connect,” he said.

Being able to host such an event on the UIS Quad is a monumental thing according to Poynter. “Such a public space speaks volumes (of UIS),” he said.

Chancellor Koch also walked through the closet door to show support for the LGBTQ community at UIS. “It’s been one of those days with 13 things on my schedule, but I’ve been looking forward to this one the most,” she commented.

Chancellor Koch. Photo by Kati Maseman

“(UIS) is here to provide the best educational experience to everyone,” Koch continued. “I am feeling proud today to walk through that door and support this community.” Koch also stated, “(We are working) to make this a community that accepts every type of diversity.”

Rev. Dr. Tony Thieman-Somora, a member of the Heartland Metropolitan Community Church walked through the door as a member of the LGBTQ community. “It’s a wonderful gift to be who God called me to be,” he said during his story.

In addition to the coming out stories and performances by Osborne, inQUEERy, and organization through the LGBTQ Resource Office, held a demonstration of the Guess the Straight Person Game Show. This game asked the audience to question a panel of contestants to try and guess which one of three was straight. At the conclusion, they revealed some issues associated with questioning sexuality and opened discussion on how problems of judgment can be avoided.

Whitney Stuva, recent graduate of UIS, hosted the game show and commented, “Being involved with inQUEERy has given me multiple opportunities to spread our message and to become a peer educator on LGBTQA issues.” She continued, “For me personally, being an inQUEERy member has made me grow as a person. I am constantly ready to offer facts and other insightful information to anybody who is willing to listen and learn.”

“Each individual involved with the group is given the knowledge and skills to combat homophobia, transphobia, and heterosexism through demonstrations for different organizations/clubs,” said Stuva, explaining inQUEERy. “Our main goal is to build acceptance around the college community and raise awareness for the LGBTQA community. We want our offered programs to not only be fun and interactive, but also informative.”

The day wrapped up with more coming out stories. “It’s always nice to see such a diverse group of students and faculty in a now annual event,” Poynter said of Closet Door on the Quad.